11 December 2023

NAHA 25 Years: Clarissa Luna, Celebrity and Fashion Make Up Artist

Clarissa Luna is a New York City-based celebrity and fashion make up artist, with over 13 years in the beauty industry.

Make up can make or break any look and Clarissa 2011 winning collection definitely showcased her make up skills and how make up can enhance a beautiful hairstyle. Clarissa won the coveted award for make up artists everywhere – the NAHA title of Make Up Artist of the Year.

Because NAHA is celebrating 25 spectacular years this Summer, we sat down with Clarissa Luna, for the inside scoop on her 2011 NAHA title of Make Up Artist of the Year. After winning NAHA, Clarissa career changed in many ways, her appreciation for make up artistry, and all that it really means came to full circle. What she used to see as a fun hobby, years ago, has now become a whirlwind career.

“People may see a fuschia lipstick, but have no clue why they like it, or how the color came about. We as make up artists, try our best to do unique work, experiment with textures, mixing and swatching colors, that then become trend. To see the impact that we have on the beauty and fashion industries, is what’s changed most for me. And now that I’m a full-time, working make up artist in NYC, I can’t believe I get to do this for a living!”, said Clarissa.

When asked about her reaction to winning, Clarissa explained to us that naturally, she was in complete shock – we don’t blame her, it’s a huge honor! She was entered by the team she did the collection with, so she wasn’t really prepared for the NAHA experience. “I couldn’t hear anything as I was receiving my award, except for my heartbeat. All I could think of was, ‘don’t faint’. After the awards show, I celebrated with my team, who also won in their category. It was a lovely night I will never forget!

Her winning collection was very much a collaboration between the salon team she was working with, and the mastermind behind it all, Allen Ruiz. Their team, along with their photographer, Tania Quintanilla, came up with lighting and background concepts, wardrobe ideas, and the entire feel for the shoot. It was after that, that Clarissa decided she wanted to make each model represent a woman of power. The one challenge she gave herself, was to stick to a certain amount of make up shades, and use them each differently, on each model. It made her step outside of her comfort zone, which made for a great addition to the concept. “It all came together really organically, and at the end of two days, we all knew there was something special about what we shot, whether or not we were going to win,” explained Clarissa.

When asked about her best memory of the whole NAHA experience, her answer was simple, “My great memory was waking up the next day, realizing I’d won. I looked at my phone and Facebook, and was so overwhelmed with congratulatory messages and emails, that I could not keep up. It hit me that I’d won, and then I started to cry… and then I started dancing around the hotel room! Hearing my parents voices the next morning, was also a very sweet moment. They reminded me to always be grateful, and stay humble. They have my trophy on display, at their home. Knowing how proud they are, may be the best memory of all,” gushed Clarissa.

Clarissa explained to us that she doesn’t find much inspiration in other artists, more so in art, architecture, and nature. She also thinks studying make up from different eras, really helped her understand different techniques that were used, and why they were used. When she challenged herself to learn on her own, she believes – You begin to create organically, without someone else’s influence. Someone who worked like that, was the great Kevyn Aucoin. If I had an artist to look up to, it would be him. Kevyn didn’t do make up. He transformed faces. His outside-the-box thinking, set him apart from everyone in the industry, and I will forever admire him for that.”

Winning Make Up Artist of the Year is no easy feat. Clarissa told us that she believes the key is all in your confidence and being able to communicate with your team – some other helpful tips she shared with us: Make mood-boards, and research a lot, you need to have unique work, it’s key. And always let your ego take a back seat, because after all, it’s just make up.”


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